The Pollution Of The River Gomti Environmental Sciences Essay

4821 words (19 pages) Essay in Environmental Sciences

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The city of Lucknow has come up on the banks of the river Gomti. The river’s significance has been time and again stated in various historical annals, which essentially point out the manner in which the city in its early days was dependent on the Gomti.

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The early nawabs used had built palaces on the banks of the Gomti, with water from the river being brought into the palaces for both sanitary as well as aesthetic purposes. [3] These palaces had bathrooms as well as toilets with proper sewage disposal mechanisms to ensure that the water post use was taken out of the palace and left back in the Gomti. [4] 

The river provided for the arts of various craftsmen to thrive. [5] The water from the river was utilized by various people who practiced the art of dying cloth. The water, once the dying process was over, was let back into the river. [6] 

When the British came to Lucknow, they constructed the company cantonment, called the Residency, four miles north of the Gomti. [7] Here too, the river played an important role in providing water to the British by means of a system of canals that they had constructed for their purposes. [8] 

The river for the masses had always been an important asset. Besides being a source of water, it provided them with employment as well. Agriculture thrived along the banks of the river. [9] Fishing too was an important source of income, which was nurtured by the river. [10] 

Over the years, a lot about the city as well as the river that nurtured it has changed. The British as well as the Nawabs have long left and have been replaced by various factories as well as the innumerable people who now call Lucknow home. The river that once was the life line of the city now carries its waste and sludge. The residents solid wastes gets dumped into the river, and in light of the poor implementation of the law, the manufacturing units present in the city use the river to discharge their affluent. The river water hence has been rendered unsuitable for consumption. The aquatic life that once existed too now has perished as a result of the raised levels of pollution.

1.2 Research Methodology –

For the purposes of this research paper the researcher has utilized the doctrinal, as well as the empirical method of research. In order to achieve the aims and objectives of this research paper, the researcher needed not only understand how pollutants in the river water have a detrimental effect on the quality of the water, but also needed to study the existing legal framework to see if those specific concerns had been catered to in the legislations. Furthermore, the author had to empirically access the levels of pollution in the river waters of Gomti in order to determine whether the pollutants were being controlled or not by the respective agencies. In addition to this, numerous newspaper reports and government documents from the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board [11] have been used. Various sources form the world wide web too were utilized for research purposes.

1.3 Aims and Objectives –

The aim of this research paper is to portray the levels of pollution in the river Gomti and thus determine the effects of pollution on the river. The objective of this research paper is to determine if the legal framework is well suited to ensure that the pollution levels be curbed or if there is any lax in the normative structure of the law.

1.4 Scope and Limitation –

The scope of this research paper revolves around the pollution that has been caused by the industrial activity in and around the city of Lucknow and the manner in which the same has polluted the river. The scope of this research paper also envisages a brief perusal of the legal norms governing the environment and its protection in India. This scope is limited to the legal situation that exists in India. In addition to this, the scope of this research paper is restricted to the River Gomti alone and no other river that flows in the region. Necessary references to highlight the comparative levels of pollution have been made in paper where necessary.

2.0 The Law for the Protection of Water Bodies

2.1 The Water (Prevention And Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 –

In 1974, the Central Legislature decide to enact the Water Act. This Act aimed at the prevention and control of water pollution and at the maintenance or restoration of the wholesomeness of water bodies in India. [12] The Act envisaged this by means of the establishment of Central [13] and State Boards [14] .

The main function of the central boards is to ensure that the water bodies do not in any manner incur any degradation. [15] They work towards the maintenance of aquatic ecosystems across the States. For the fulfillment of the said objective, they not only coordinate the activities of the State Board but also ensure that adequate assistance is provided to the State boards whenever necessary. The Central Boards are also provide technical information to the State Boards whenever the same is asked for by the latter. The Central Board for the purposes of furthering environmental causes may recognize laboratories so as to enable them to analyze water samples form the various parts of the country. [16] The State Board on the other hand is responsible for planning a comprehensive program for the prevention of pollution in the State. It is suppose to work in conformity with the Central Board for the attainment of its predetermined objectives. [17] 

As per the legislation, the authorities have the right to enter any industrial establishment and take samples of the chemicals that are being released into the water bodies in order to determine whether or not they are toxic and therefore ought to be treated before they are released. [18] Furthermore, if the agency cannot gather the chemicals, it can collect the samples from the water that is being released in order to determine the levels of toxicity. [19] Subsequently, the Board can approach a court of law to enforce the prescribed penalty. [20] 

In cases where, the culprit is a company, then the board also withholds the power to pierce the corporate veil and determine whose commission or omission is responsible for the release of the pollutants into the water body. [21] Similarly, if the culprit is a Government entity, then in that case, the Head of the Department of that Government entity shall be deemed to be responsible for the pollution caused. [22] 

In addition to the Water Act, 1974, there are various provisions in the Constitution of India such as the Article 48A that talks about the protection of the environment. [23] Similarly, the municipalities [24] as well as the panchayats [25] too have been enabled to take steps for the preservation of the ecosystem.

2.2 Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 – .

These rules essentially provide the manner in which Hazardous wastes are to be handled and disposed of by the any industry or body that is emitting the same. These Rules were brought in pursuant to powers conferred by Sections 6,8 and 25 of the Environment(Protection) Act, 1986(29 of 1986) on the Central Government to make rules. [26] 

These Rules have specific schedules that mention the quantity of heavy metals that are permissible to be released into any water body. [27] In addition to this, the Rules also provide for the responsibility of the occupier and the operator of a facility in regards the release of affluent into water bodies. [28] The rules mandate that hazardous waste be packaged, labeled and transported to specific dumping sites. [29] These disposal sites too have been specifically provided for in the rules. [30] 

2.3 Cases on River Water Pollution in India –

2.3.1 Tirupur Dyeing Factory Owners Association v. Noyyal River Ayacutdars Protection Association and Ors. , Civil Appeal No. 6776 of 2009 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 6963 of 2007) and Civil Appeal No. 6777 of 2009 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 28296 of 2008) as Decided On – 06.10.2009 (Not Cited Yet) –

Public Interest Litigation was filed by the Noyyal River Ayacutdars Protection Association, a registered Association for seeking directions for preservation of ecology and for keeping the Noyyal river in Tamil Nadu free from pollution. [31] According to this Association, a large number of industries, some of them respondents before the writ court and appellants herein had indulged in dyeing and bleaching works at Tirupur area and discharging the industrial effluents into the Noyyal river which had caused water pollution to the extent, that the water of the river was neither fit for irrigation nor potable. The pollution also adversely affected the Orthapalayam reservoir and other tanks and channels of the said river. [32] 

The court held in this case that the polluting Association cannot escape the responsibility to meet out the expenses of reversing the ecology. [33] They were bound to meet the expenses of removing the sludge of the river and also for cleaning the dam. [34] The principles of polluters-pay and precautionary principle in this case have been read with the doctrine of sustainable development. [35] In light of this reading it became the responsibility of the members of the Association that they carry out their industrial activities without polluting the water. [36] 

2.3.2 U.P. Pollution Control Board v. Dr. Bhupendra Kumar Modi and Anr, (2009)2SCC147 –

M/s Modi Carpets Ltd., Raebareli had been releasing affluent and sludge into a nearly water body and the same had been happening for a very long time. The court in this regard after looking at the facts and circumstances of the case came to the conclusion that the pollution that was being caused was the responsibility of this said establishment and held them liable for the damage caused to the environment. [37] 

2.3.3 Pondicherry Paper Limited v. Central Board for Prevention and Control of Pollution, Cri. M.P. No. 4662 & 4663 of 1978 Madras High Court –

Pondicherry Paper Limited had been releasing various chemicals intro a nearby water body. This had caused a lot of damage to the environment and the water in which the chemicals were being dumped was now not suitable for any form of usage. [38] The court in this case under Section 33 of the Water Act, gave an injunction to prevent further water pollution. [39] 

2.3.4 Narula Dyeing and Printing Works v. Union of India, AIR 1995 Guj 185 –

In this case the Dyeing Unit had not set up any treatment plant and had been functioning for a very long time. During the years of its functioning, it had been releasing the chemicals that it had been using in the Khalicut Canal. When the matter was brought to the cognizance of the court, they not only issued an injunction on this unit but also called for the payment of heavy damages. [40] 

3.0 The Condition of the Gomti Today

The condition of the river Gomti has been depleting day be day. The waters of the river have been used by the residents of the city as a dumping ground for household garbage. The Times of India on the 16th of September, 2008 ran an article that brought this pathetic condition to the fore. [41] With the receding waters of the river, for the first time, the Lucknow Municipals Corporation came to know the amount of polythene that had been dumped in the river. The polythene had subsequently managed to reach the sewage treatment plant at Daulatganj, the sole sewage treatment plant in Lucknow on the Gomti. As a result of this, the plant was chocked and could not process the wastes. Consequently, untreated water had been flowing into the river Gomti causing the depletion of the aquatic environment as well as the marine life that exists there. [42] 

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The treatment plant at Daulatganj receives 303 Million liters per Day of sewage. [43] When toxic substances enter a body of water, they get dissolved in the water and cause the oxygen levels in the water to deplete. On numerous occasions, the pollutants in the water remain suspended or get deposited at the bottom of the river. The resulting water pollution causes the quality of the water to deteriorate and affects aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and effect groundwater deposits. [44] 

Lucknow’s sewage and industrial wastes that are discharged into the Gomti have had a similar effect. Studies have shown that the amount of dissolved oxygen in the river has constantly been reduced with the raised levels of pollution. It is an accepted scientific fact that aquatic life cannot exist in waters where the level of dissolved oxygen is below 4 Mg / liter. [45] A study of the levels of dissolved oxygen in the waters of the Gomti has shown that the condition has been made critical because of the dumping of sewage and other pollutants. In 2008, the level of dissolved oxygen was calculated by the UPPCB to be 1.2658 Mg / Liter [46] causing large scale deaths of fish and other marine life forms. [47] In addition to this, micro organisms that thrive in highly alkaline waters that are unsuitable for the habitation of fishes and other aquatic beings too were found, which further corroborate the high toxicity levels of the waters of the Gomti. [48] 

Besides sewage being dumped in the river, municipal waste [49] as well as the animal carcasses too are left by the banks of the Gomti [50] . The dumping of municipal wastes along the river over a large period of time has caused the chemical composition of the soil as well as the water to change. As the toxic chemicals present in the waste percolates down the soil, it chemically reacts with the soil to alter its chemical nature and composition permanently. [51] 

The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute [52] had conducted a survey along the River Gomti in order to determine the levels of toxicity in the river water as well as the sediments along the banks. They concluded that the levels of heavy metals, found not only in the river but also in the sediments were raised above normal. The water contained 0.0276 mg / L of lead which was considerably above the optimal limit. Similarly, the levels of Cadmium and Copper too were substantially raised. [53] 

The study of the sediments found along the banks too narrated a similar story. The levels of Iron, Magnesium, Manganese and Cadmium had been raised alarmingly due to the continued disposal of toxic waste along the banks. Iron was found to be at a high of 739.43 m grams / gram. Similarly, in every gram of sediments collected, NEERI found 7.9 m grams of Cadmium. [54] 

It is thus evident from the raised levels of these heavy metals that the river water as well as the area surrounding it is highly toxic. The origin of these heavy metals has conclusively been determined as the waste products that have been dumped in the river and the areas surrounding. [55] The presence of these heavy metals has been known to cause several diseases. Cadmium for example causes health hazards like gastrointestinal ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage. [56] Internationally, it has been recognized that the levels of Cadmium should not exceed 5 m grams / gram. [57] This index therefore gives us an idea as to the level of toxicity along the Gomti.

The allegations that had been leveled against the National Botanical Research Institute [58] further has added to the debate. [59] It was alleged that the NBRI had been conducting the certain experiments using radioactive material. The disposal of the waste material created by the research was said to be in non conformity with the guidelines issued for disposal of radioactive waste. [60] The raised levels of heavy metals in the river water and in the sediments could be an indicator of the same. [61] 

4.0 Conclusion

The situation encountered here is one that is not unusual in India. One cannot conclude that there is a paucity of laws in this particular area concerning water pollution. But when one looks at the enforcement of these laws, a lot remains desired. [62] 

The State Boards and the Central Boards have not been functioning as per their mandate. With government officials not catering to their responsibilities, the Boards have become paper tigers, despite the impressive legislative backing that they have.

The empirical studies conducted by the researcher shows that the river water is exhibiting tell tale signs of high levels of pollution. The law on preservation of water bodies has stipulated the amount of sewage that can be released into the rivers and other streams in any region. As per Annexure II 303 Million Liter of sewage is released per day into the Gomti, the same is higher than any of the prescribed limits for proper waste disposal in any country of the world. [63] 

As a consequence of such high levels of pollution, the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water have depleted, rendering the water unsuitable for the sustenance of any form of life. Ideally, for the aquatic ecosystem to exist, there ought to be a minimum of 4 mg of dissolved oxygen per liter of water. [64] Unfortunately, due to the release of various pollutants into the river water, the level of dissolved oxygen has become as low as 1.2658 Mg / Liter. [65] The same has consequently resulted in the death of numerous fishes in the river.

In addition to this, what is extremely alarming is the raised levels of heavy metal in the river water and the sediments found along the river bank. A qualitative analysis of the river water as well as the sediments have disclosed high levels of Cadmium and Lead, in addition to Iron. [66] The presence of these three heavy metals in such high quantity is indicative of the high levels of toxicity that exists today. The same is a result of the large scale dumping that has been happening both of domestic as well as industrial waste. The toxic waste seeps into the soil and eventually causes the depletion of the quality of the soil. In addition to this, there have been allegations of radioactive wastes being dumped into the river by the NBRI. [67] 

4.1 Liability of the Municipality –

In regards the dumping of untreated sewage water in the River Gomti by the U.P. Jal Nigam, the liability for the same shall rest on the Municipality in light of the ratio laid down in the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, AIR 1988 SC 1115. The Supreme Court in that case had stated that the maintenance of the ecosystem that exists in the rivers in India was the responsibility of the municipalities and they could not absolve themselves of the same on any ground. [68] If there was any release of chemicals or untreated sewage water into the waters of any river, the municipality responsible for having prevented the same shall be help responsible. [69] 

In the present matter, the Lucknow Municipality had the onus on them to ensure that the waters of the river Gomti were not polluted by the release of sewage. Since, the same was not done, they should be help responsible for the pollution caused to the river.

Furthermore, the existence of heavy metals in the water and the sediments too can be attributed to the negligence of the Municipality. As per The Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989, specific limits have been provided that suggest the upper limit of the concentration of those heavy metals in the soil. [70] 

In light of Entry 3 [71] , Entry 4 [72] , and Entry 5 [73] of Schedule I and Entry A3 and A4 [74] and Entry B30 and B6 of Schedule II of the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989, the liability of the Municipality of the is further established. A reading of these entries show that the concentration of the heavy metals in the water of the river as well as in the soil sediments is far above the permissible limits and hence would make the municipality liable. [75] 

4.2 Liability of the NBRI –

The NBRI cannot be held liable under the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 since the applicability of this legislation is specifically precluded from radio active wastes. [76] The disposal of radio active substance is covered by the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. As per the provisions of this legislation, whenever a particular organization is using any form of radioactive substance, then in that case the disposal of the same has to happen in sealed lead containers and not in the open, else the same might cause damage to the environment. [77] 

In the present case, the NBRI had been using radioactive substances, without disposing them off as per the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, that is, it had been releasing radioactive substances in the open and not in the proper sealed containers, the same shall render them liable for the damage caused to the environment.

4.3 Solutions –

The condition therefore is most certainly alarming. The city is dependent on the river for water, and continues to use the same, ignorant of the condition of the water, with no action being taken either by the U.P. Jal Sansthan or the UPPCB. There have been plans of cleaning up the Gomti, and the same have received immense media coverage as well. Unless and until, the flow of pollutants into the river is not stopped, such programs shall only be partial successes.

Steps need to be taken to improve the levels of dissolved oxygen. In addition to this, the dumping that is happening along the river banks also needs to be controlled so that the levels of heavy metals can be reduced in the river water as well as in the sediments along the bank of the river.

In addition to this, the dumping of animal carcasses as well as polythene bags need to be stopped. Not only do they block the water treatment plants, they also damage the aquatic ecosystem to a great extent.

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